Why Be Frugal?

DSC_0687This might seem an odd question from the Frugal Goddess, but it is worth asking. Being frugal means more effort and often deferred gratification. There has to be a pay-off or nobody would do it willingly.

There are really three groups of frugalistas. The forcibly frugal are too poor don’t have a choice. This group  grew much larger in the USA during the crash of 2008 and is still growing. Sadly, the rest of the world has always had a large population in this group. For the forcibly frugal, there is no need to ask why. How is the question. How to feed a family, how to obtain shelter, how to survive.

The middle class frugalista understands the concept of deferred gratification. There are many, even in this over-heated consumer environment, that are willing to do the work to achieve a dream. This group understands the relationship between prudence and success. To be middle class is an exercise in compromise. A person with a moderate income can make choices, and satisfy some desires, but not all. For this group, a consistent frugal lifestyle means home-ownership, college for the kids, and the opportunity to do a few really amazing things like travel to the world. If this type were to go on impulse, all the surplus would be frittered away on trips to the mall, and they would have the debt-load of the average American family. For these frugalistas, frugality really does make their dreams come true.

But it does something more as well. It creates a deep sense of peace. It is well known that money problems are one of the biggest sources of stress in our culture. And that money fights are one of the biggest causes of divorce. Frugal people avoid all of that. And if the parents are frugal it sets a very good example for the whole family.

Though it may seem that we are through, there is actually one more type. The members of the voluntary simplicity movement tend to be very well off. Maybe even rich enough that waste is a mere inconvenience, not a life-threatening disaster. But this group is interested in a green life-style, and in a sustainable solution to the “human” problem. This involves avoiding waste and conscious values-based spending. That is the very definition of frugality. This group has a very different problem from the first two groups. The first group has no problem staying frugal, it is staying alive that concerns them. The second group may have temptations, but a commitment to a greater reward will keep them on track. But, for the voluntary frugalista, it is commitment to an idea of what is right that drives the frugal lifestyle. For them, the answer to the question “why be frugal” is an intellectual one. But, even so, there are rewards other than virtue. The voluntary frugalista gets the benefit of self-knowledge and clarity. This translates to more time doing the things that are truly rewarding, and less time spinning in circles.

Whatever your current financial situation, a frugal lifestyle is worth it.

First Time Gardener-A Follow Up

DSC_0637You might have noticed that my series on being a first time gardener just trailed off. That is because the garden just trailed off…

As you can see from the photo, all I got was a few tiny squash, 3 mini zucchinis, and a handful of not ready for prime time tomatoes.The squash are sitting near a grapefruit for comparison.

But–I am not easy to discourage. This year I have not finished planting, but already have a DSC_0641row of very healthy string beans, three thriving tomato plants, and a large strawberry patch. I will be adding basil, cucumbers, and chilis. Also several types of squash, and I expect the squash to act like squash this year, so I can scare my neighbors and friends.

We figured out that the soil was not rich enough, and the area was too crowded. Both problems have been fixed. So stay tuned for First Time Gardener–the Sequel!

The Frugal Goddess Goes LIVE with a Workshop on Food Waste!

Careful Planning is the Key!

The Frugal Goddess will give her first live workshop—Stop Food Waste Now with the fugal Goddess, in Santa Rosa CA on October 15, 2012.

The workshop will cover how we make bad choices that lead to food waste, how to plan a week’s meals that will really be eaten without waste, how to store what you buy so it lasts, and how to handle special problems with the flow of food through your household and your life.

If you regularly dump your money into the waste bin through wasted food, if you have great intentions on shopping day that lead to nothing but expensive compost, if you have “science experiments in you vegetable bin instead of edible veggies, this might be for you!

The first Frugal Goddess book on the same subject is in the works. There will be an announcement on this blog when it comes out.

If you live in the bay area please go to this link for tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/258266 and here is a link to the original post that started the whole project: http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/03/10/food-waste-why-we-do-it-and-how-we-can-stop/

The Frugal Bride—Are You Getting Married? Save Money and Still Have a Great Wedding!

A Lovely Wedding Can Be Frugal!

A wedding is one of the biggest events most of us will ever be involved in. It is also one of the most emotional. And of course we want our guests to have a wonderful time, and we want to create happy memories that will last forever. But—we may not have enough money to go around. What is the frugal bride to do?

When I got married in 2000 I only spent $1200 dollars. I recycled the rings from a pawn shop (after we smudged them with sage, that is.) I used a dress that I had bought awhile before but never worn, a frothy shell pink number with lots of lace. We got married in the empty field next door. We served homemade food to our guests, and my friend who is a baker made the cake. The minister cost $250, so we had to pay that. The only thing I splurged on was the flowers—the bouquet and one big beautiful arrangement.

The first thing you need to do to plan a frugal wedding is break down all the components. Venue, food, drinks, music, flowers, other decorations, officiant, wedding attire, rings, and whatever else you want to include. Then think each element through, with one question in mind—“How can I get this taken care of for little or no money?”

Do you have a dress in the family that would suit you? Wearing a family heirloom at your wedding could be very charming. Does someone you know have a lovely cutting garden? Maybe they would donate the flowers. Know a baker? Perhaps they would do as my friend did and make you a pretty wedding cake. Is someone in your family a remarkable cook? Let them run the lunch or dinner plans. Do you belong to a church, temple, or other congregation? Many times the group will provide the space for the wedding and the minister or rabbi will officiate free of charge for members. Why not ask?

Go through the list and dig up every source of help you can. When you have run out of free or discounted helpers it is time to take stock of the things you must pay for. This is one of the reasons planning ahead is so important. You can’t get good deals at the last minute unless you are very lucky, and who wants to rely on luck at a time like this?

Because it is your wedding, and that is a most important occasion, it is totally with-in the frugal plan to splurge on one or two elements. The only requirement is that you give due consideration to every detail before you open your wallet. It may be the wine or the dress or the rings. Whatever it is, think it through carefully, spend what you need joyously and without regret, and whatever else—enjoy your day!

 

Here are a few resources:

http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Married-While-Spending-Little/dp/1453821473/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348855965&sr=1-3&keywords=Getting+Married+on+a+budget

 

http://www.amazon.com/Money-Still-Fabulous-Wedding-ebook/dp/B005PYVUEG/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348856029&sr=1-4&keywords=Getting+Married+on+a+budget

http://www.projectwedding.com/wedding-ideas/diy-wedding

 

Retire in Style Even if You are Broke!

 

The other day I saw a startling and scary statistic. Over 60% of Americans, when asked how much money it would take for them to feel absolutely comfortable at retirement, quote a figure of 4 million dollars. Yet the average amount of actual retirement savings is a mere sixty thousand. This is a huge disconnect. If what you actually have at retirement age is 60K, either you are going to be living on a tiny social security check, or you will not be retiring at all, but rather continuing to work.

This situation is complicated by those that were “forcibly retired” in the crash of 2008. If you are over sixty and lost your job in the crash, and you have not been able to get another job, it would not be stretching the truth to say you are “retired”. This is a frightening and unfair thing, but there it is. So what do you do?

First of all, if your unemployment has run out and you are approaching 62, go get that social security check. It may not be much but it beats the alternative.

Then, whether you retired by choice or by force, try these tips:

  1. If you are going to take up a hobby, consider one that has side benefits, such as vegetable gardening, sewing, computer repair, or carpentry. These are all useful skills that can save you money, but they can also enrich you in other ways
  2. Cook your own meals. Nothing else has such an immediate beneficial effect on your wallet, your health, and your quality of life.
  3. Cut your housing expense by getting a housemate. Studies show that living with another person will help you live longer and healthier than living alone. Even if you are married having a housemate can be helpful in other ways than just cutting your living expenses. And if your home is in danger of being lost, using it to create income could save it.
  4. Having deep friendships is more important to quality of life than money. Stay in close touch and find free or inexpensive activities to enjoy together. Things like picnics and movie night.
  5. If you have a little capital, start a small business. Just make sure it is rock solid. Buying an already successful business and changing nothing may be just the ticket. Things like coffee carts and vending machines are possible choices. The idea is not to take a risk but rather to carry on with a sure thing.
  6. If you are a good salesperson and very social, try a network marketing business. Many of them are require a very minimal starting investment. Just make sure you really love the product. These businesses are all based on word of mouth, and your integrity is important. Also, really succeeding is hard work, but if you have the right personality and the right product you can supplement your fixed income nicely.

Then there are a few techniques that involve the underground economy, so I am not recommending them but merely reporting what others have done to create a better quality of life in retirement. These techniques are barter and creating an all cash business. Remember those useful hobbies mentioned above? Can you trade your skills in these things for things you want and need? Can you sell your skills for cash? If so, that is how you get those small luxuries that are necessary for a rich and happy life. You could advertise with flyers on bulletin boards or by word of mouth through your circle of acquaintances, and get paid cash.  There are retirees that enjoy a much higher standard of living than they would otherwise by using their talents and skills to advantage. Some of them are even having fun.

If you are getting near to retirement and are worried about having enough, look into some or all of these ideas, and above all, enjoy this phase of your life. You worked hard and you deserve an abundant life!

A First-timer’s Garden—Post 2: Everything Growing but I am Not Done Planting Yet

The First Squash Blossom of Summer

This seems so simple. It makes me wonder why I didn’t do it much sooner. It also makes me worry if I am doing something wrong. Are the plants too close together? Will the tall beans block the sun for the shorter melons and cucumbers?

I thought I got at least one zucchini from the plant sale but both of the squash from there are just marked “summer squash”. Then I tried to get someone else to get me a zucchini when they were at the nursery and they came back with YELLOW zucchini. Of course we planted it, but I still want a GREEN one. We are going to be in trouble this August, I can tell. I have known folks who have grown more than one zucchini. They haunt their friends with giant “gifts”, in the end resorting to dropping them on doorsteps after dark and then running…

We started with three barrels and a box, plus a yard and a half of dirt. We are up to ten barrels and counting, plus about four yards of dirt. And I am not done yet. I still need some kitchen herbs, and maybe some other stuff. Does gardening qualify as a process addiction like gambling or computer solitaire? We shall see.

How Much is Enough? Six Tips for Knowing when to Stop

If You Don't Know what you Want You'll Never Have Enough

The question “how much is enough?” is at the very heart of a frugal life richly lived. It is the backbone of frugal abundance. We live in a culture that resists the concept of enough. For the inhabitants of the “developed world”, the answer we must give is that no amount is enough. The economy we have created depends on MORE, and just enough is considered an ill.

But sensible people trying to live a good and pleasant life know that this is hog wash. Too much clutter in our material possessions or our time leads to a frenzied life where we don’t fully use or enjoy the things we have. So what is the cure? Try these six simple tips to get back to a state of happy balance:

  1. Before you bring in ANYTHING new, look at what you already have and ask yourself what the purpose is. Do you already have something that will accomplish whatever it is you are trying to do? For example, if you want to make crepes, do you really need to buy a special pan? Or would the cast iron pan you have work just as well. This also applies to time—before you add something to your schedule STOP and ask yourself why.
  2. Do you know the real cost of the things you want to acquire? Don’t forget to add in the cost of maintenance, repair, and auxiliary doo dads that you will need to make it work. When it comes to your time, remember to include travel and preparation time. These are things you need to know before committing yourself. If you don’t think it through you may bite off more than you can chew and end up with TOO MUCH.
  3. Where are you going to put the new thing? If it doesn’t fit in your house it won’t fit in your life. The same goes for new activities. When are you going to do the new activity, including prep, practice, and travel if applicable? Things without places create clutter and eventually misery.
  4. How does the new thing fit into your value system? If you don’t know, don’t buy it till you find out. You only have so much time, money, and physical space. If you let in a bunch of stuff that does not serve your value system, it just becomes a distraction. It also drives out the things that are in harmony with your values, and therefore robs your life of meaning to one extent or another. For example, if your values include bonding with your loved ones with a real sit down dinner, adding a lot of early evening activities is actually a form of clutter and will soon become TOO MUCH.
  5. Have a plan for buying things and committing your time. If you put the big pieces in first, such as travel or buying a house then the smaller decisions become easier. If you know that forgoing a new outfit will get you closer to a trip you want to take it removes some of the sting of saying no to yourself. This also works when dealing with family members. If you all agree that going camping is important it will help when you have to nix the new sneakers. Well, maybe not every time, but it will certainly help.
  6. Now apply these guidelines to what you already have. Do you need to purge anything? Cancel anything? Get rid of any time commitments, memberships, or subscriptions? Does all that you have serve you and your values? Be honest, and then start making a pile for charity. And don’t be too quick to fill up the spaces that get opened up. Open space and breathing room are essential to a happy life and a sign that you have just the right amount.

Try these six tips to create a life that is the right size for you. Not all of them will be easy, but the results will be worth it.

For more on this topic check out these links:

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/09/23/frugality-in-a-consumption-crazed-society/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/08/30/false-economy/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2010/11/01/time-and-money/

A First-timer’s Garden—Post 1: Getting the Plants in the Ground

The Frugal Goddess Learns to Dig in the Dirt

Some of my reader’s who have been following the Frugal Goddess for awhile may remember—I am a cook, not a gardener. My mother was a champion gardener. Her gardens were chaotic and messy, but always lush and productive. I was clumsy in my attempts to help, and soon gave up, retreating to the familiar safety of my kitchen. But now, a dozen years later, I realize that if I want that wonderful homegrown flavor at a cost that is bearable, I must learn how to grow it myself.

My garden plot sits on the back field of an acre and a half just northeast of Sebastopol, CA. I have to plant in containers because the gophers rule here. It took awhile to get the barrels and build my one box to start with. Some might say I was already late, but at least now I’m ready.

The containers sat for some time while I figured out what to fill them with. Dirt

A Garden in Containers

some may say, but that is too simple. It has to be good clean earth with the right types of organic matter added in. Like everything else, there are perhaps too many choices. Luckily Sonoma County is still a farming community, and there is a dirt store not far away. It is really a fascinating place, with piles of various types of dirt for different applications, and big trucks with big shovels, piling it in to a line of waiting pickup trucks. I got a yard and a half of the Organic Garden Mix. This was then shoveled into the waiting containers. This is when I discovered what an easy job cooking is, compared to farming. But it felt good to shovel and to dig my hands in the rich dark earth as I planted my babies.

My first grand plan was to grow from seed, but that was way too complicated for a pilgrim like me. Maybe next year. I put in a row of beans, a row of cucumber, several melons, tomatoes, acorn squash, and summer squash, including the ubiquitous zucchini, all from starts. I still have a barrel or two to fill. I will be posting from time to time on the progress from garden to table. For now, let me just say—I haven’t killed anything yet.

Here are some links for further information:

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/03/24/frugal-gardening-seed-saving-saves-money-and-is-good-for-the-planet/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/01/13/the-gardener-in-winter/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2012/03/01/get-more-flavor-for-less-money-grow-these-five-herbs-indoors/

 

Never Buy Store Bought Salad Dressing Again-3 Great Dressings You can Whip Up in Minutes!

Simple Ingredients

Making salad dressing at home is one of the easiest things you can do in a kitchen and in many cases it is also less expensive as well. But even when the cost is the same in actual dollars, the homemade dressing is still better. When judging the frugal choice it is important to factor in quality and not just price. When I decide what to cook I either want a real cost savings or I want a much better product at the same price. Once in a while it is possible to get both.

Simple vinaigrettes generally cost less for a higher quality. Fancier creamy dressings may cost as much as the store bought kind when you add in the high cost of certain ingredients, but if you are a serious frugalista you likely already have a windowsill herb garden if not an entire kitchen garden.

Here are three simple salad dressings to try:

Garlic Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup good olive oil
  •  1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 gloves garlic peeled and minced
  •  1 tsp prepared mustard
  •  a pinch salt

Place all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Place an immersion blender on the lowest setting with the whisk attachment. Whisk till the mixture emulsifies. It will look almost creamy. This will take less than a minute. Put in a pint jar and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using. This dressing will keep for several weeks.

Ranch Dressing

  •  3 scallions
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp prepared mustard
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil 1 garlic clove minced ½ cup mayonnaise ½ cup plain yogurt
  •  ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 pinch salt
  •  freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients and whisk by hand or with an immersion blender till thoroughly blended.

Russian Dressing (sweet)

  •  ½ cup ketchup
  •  ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 T prepared horseradish
  • 1 T minced onion
  •  1 tsp  Worcestershire sauce a splash of vinegar

Mix together and use on salads or as a spread for a corned beef or Reuben sandwich.

There are hundreds of other simple inexpensive salad dressings you can whip up fresh in just a few minutes. So, if you have been relying on over-priced, over-preserved store bought dressings just stop– and find out how great a completely fresh salad can be!

Cheap or Frugal? What’s the Difference Anyhow?

 

So many times when I tell people about my writing I get a strange response. “oh—I don’t like that word-frugality” they say. “I don’t want to be cheap” Or sometimes “I don’t want to live in a poverty consciousness.” It is easy to see where these ideas come from. The shift in our value systems as a culture has given the honorable qualities of frugality and thrift a bad name. At this point for many these words are bundled up with other words such as miserly, stingy, and cheap.

But this was not always the case. The founders of the United States had a very different view—hence all the wonderful sayings about frugal living from the best minds of that era. For example “A penny saved is a penny earned.” and “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” both from Benjamin Franklin. They did have a word for cheapness back then—they would have said miserly, but they knew the difference between miserly and frugal or economical. The question posed in this post would never have arisen back then.

Today is a different story. In an atmosphere where things and experiences (that can be purchased) have taken the place of actual connections with people to large extent and going into debt is the normal way to get our needs met and our wants satisfied it is hard to imagine the value of delayed gratification. It is to the advantage of the market to make us believe that frugal is the same thing as cheap.

It is true that some behaviors are “cheap”. For instance—going out to dinner and ordering the pasta instead of steak is frugal. Not tipping the waitress is cheap. A frugal person would not go to a place where they can’t really afford to be there. The same with going out with friends and “forgetting” your wallet. A frugal person would just suggest a less expensive form of entertainment to begin with. Or they would save up for a big night out and thoroughly enjoy it, knowing that spending their time and money that way was the best use it could have, and without guilt. That is the true meaning of frugal abundance. It is to know what you want, and then going about making proper provisions to get it.

A cheap person only has one way of interacting with money—hoarding it. A frugal person is adaptable and responsive to the environment. They are willing to spend when appropriate while getting the best value for their money. This may mean that they are slower to reach for the wallet. This is not the knee jerk reaction of the miser, but rather the behavior of a self-aware person living with-in their means. In the end, it is the big spender that experiences lack, and his frugal sister who lives in prosperity.

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